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It is generally safe to give diphenhydramine to children who are older than two. This medication can, however, be too strong for younger children and infants and should not be administered to them unless directed by a pediatrician. Though using diphenhydramine for children is not likely to cause any problems, it is important to follow the dosing directions carefully. Parents or guardians should monitor children who have been given this drug to make sure that they do not have adverse reactions to it.
When administering diphenhydramine for children, it is important to give the correct dosage. Children who are given a dose that is too high can have potentially life-threatening reactions. In general, children between the ages of two and six take 6.25 milligrams (mg) at intervals between four and six hours apart. For children of this age, the maximum daily dose is 37.5 mg. Older children between the ages of six and 12 can be given 12.5 mg at a time with no more than 75 mg given in one 24 hour period.
Though it is usually safe to administer diphenhydramine for children older than two, there are a number of side effects that parents should watch out for. Severe allergic reactions are possible with diphenhydramine even though this medication is usually given to counter an allergic reaction. Hives, shortness of breath, and severe vomiting are reactions that should be reported to a doctor. A child who loses consciousness and cannot be roused should be taken to a doctor immediately.
Aside from these uncommon though serious effects, children can have side effects that are mild or moderate. This medication can cause gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and diarrhea, which should be monitored to ensure resolution within a few days. Dizziness, drowsiness, and difficulty focusing are also common side effects, so children should be watched to make sure they do not accidentally injure themselves while under the effects of this medicine.
It is not safe to administer diphenhydramine for children under the age of two unless directed by a physician. Women who are breastfeeding should also avoid this medicine because it can be passed on to a nursing infant. It is believed that it is safe for pregnant women to take this medicine, though women should check with their doctors beforehand. It is also considered unsafe for children under the age of four to take diphenhydramine when it is combined with another drug.